The Immigration Act of 1990, along with creating the H-1B "high-skill" guest worker program and the visa lottery also mandated a commission to evaluate immigration policy and to recommend changes. The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform became known as the Jordan Commission because of its chair, Former Representative from Texas, Barbara Jordan.
Jordan (1936-1996) was a Civil Rights leader and a pioneering public servant. She was the first African-American woman elected to the Texas Senate (1966), the first woman from Texas to be elected to the U.S Congress (1973-1979), and the first African-American to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic National Convention (1976).
The Commission recommended reducing legal immigration to 550,000 a year, about one-third of what it was in 1997 and about half of what it is now. It would have done so by eliminating chain migration, allowing immigrants to sponsor only spouse and minor children, eliminating the visa lottery, and setting an annual ceiling for refugee admissions at 50,000. The Commission also adamantly opposed amnesty and fully supported deportation and an electronic verification system to prevent illegal aliens from working in the United States --the precursor to E-Verify.
Last week, Center for Immigration Studies' "Parsing Immigration Policy" podcast had the Center's Executive Director Mark Krikorian discussing Jordan's remarkable legacy with NumbersUSA Director of Research, Eric Ruark. The culmination of her tireless public service was the recommendations of the Commission, finalized shortly before her death in 1996. President Clinton vowed at the time to implement these recommendations, and Congress did pass laws increasing penalties for illegal immigration, but reductions in legal immigration never came, being stripped out the final legislation.
Jordan's work has largely been forgotten because her fellow Democrats are reluctant to honor her legacy in fear that her view on immigration will receive the attention they deserve.
Listen to "Parsing Immigration Policy: Who Was Barbara Jordan and Why Does Her Work Still Matter Today?" here
Updated: Tue, Aug 24th 2021 @ 8:45pm EDT